I am so excited to have Rebecca Behrens interviewed on Spirit of Children’s Literature! Her middle grade novel, When Audrey Met Alice, just released on February 4th, 2014, and is published by Sourcebooks. Her debut novel, Behrens has written a gem of a book that highlights the adventures and challenges of thirteen year old First Daughter, Audrey Rhodes. When she discovers the old diary of Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter, Alice, from the 1901 and 1902, she begins to follow Alice’s advice, “To Thine Own Self Be True.” What follows is a fabulous story shifting between two distinct voices. (My full review to follow).
Bio: Rebecca Behrens grew up in Wisconsin, studied in Chicago, and now lives with her husband in New York City, where she works as a production editor for children’s books. Rebecca loves writing and reading about girls full of moxie and places full of history. When she’s not writing, you can find her running in the park, reading on a beach, or eating a donut. Visit her online at www.rebeccabehrens.com.
Where did you get inspiration for writing When Audrey Met Alice?
I’ve always been fascinated by children living in the White House, and when President Obama was elected in 2008, I thought a lot about how the lives of his daughters would change as they headed to Washington. I wondered if being a First Daughter, as exciting as that is, might also be lonely. The idea of a First Daughter feeling a little isolated developed into Audrey’s character. At the same time, I was very interested Alice Roosevelt’s wild life at the turn of the century. I wanted to write about a First Daughter, but I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to write about Alice or a contemporary girl. Then when I was out for a brainstorming walk in New York, it hit me: I could combine Alice’s story with that of a contemporary First Daughter, via a long-lost diary. This is where my inspiration story gets strange: I found out later on that Alice’s aunt had lived at the very intersection where the idea hit me, and Alice spent plenty of time there as a young person. Weird!
That is an amazing story! I would say there is definitely a cool element of coincidence in how you arrived at the idea for the story when you were on your brainstorming walk. I can imagine other authors have stories like this.
What do you like most about writing for young people?
As a kid, I was always a reader, but it was when I read middle grade that I truly fell in love with books. Those years are the age of discovery, and the stories I read then stick with me. The older I get, the more I realize that the way I observed the world as a kid—with wonder, optimism, and curiosity—is the way I’d like to look at it now. But most of all, children’s books are incredibly fun, both to write and to read.
I couldn’t agree with you more! I think reading children’s books is one of the best activities out there!! Of course, writing them would be too.
What are your top two tips for anyone who wants to write a children’s book?
The first one is to read lots and lots of books for children—across genres and across categories. My second tip is to find a great critique group. Not only will you get feedback on your writing, but being part of a group of writers keeps you both accountable and inspired.
Really fantastic advice! Getting feedback for writing seems to be something that many authors I have talked to say is so important.
What are some of your favorite books?
I’ll stick with books for young readers, because otherwise this list will go on for pages. I love THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND, WALK TWO MOONS, ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS, NUMBER THE STARS, BETTER NATE THAN EVER, SPEAK, THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE, ASK THE PASSENGERS, and FEED.
Such great choices! Feed is so good–a book I recommend to people all the time. Another favorite of mine: Number the Stars!
Who is your favorite hero/heroine in children’s or young adult literature?
I really love Turtle Wexler from THE WESTING GAME. She’s not a perfect heroine—she can be a little arrogant and aloof, and she does have that habit of kicking people in the shins. But she is clever, determined, resourceful, and good-hearted.
I may need to plan a re-read of The Westing Game!
Are you planning to write another children’s book? What’s it about (if we may be so bold to ask!)
I’m working on another book that blends contemporary and historical fiction—this time, the setting involves the lost colony of Roanoke.
Love, love, love this idea!! As a young person I was always fascinated by the lost colony of Roanoke. We at the blog are cheering you on to write this book!
We on this blog really love donuts and pie. What’s your favorite kind of donut and your favorite kind of pie?
I adore this question! Although I love trying adventurous donut varieties, my ultimate favorite donut is surprisingly simple: a glazed chocolate cake donut with sprinkles (or toasted coconut). And for pie, I really love a good tart cherry pie. Oddly enough, that’s one pie I’ve never baked myself—my specialties are pecan and blackberry cream.
So glad you enjoyed the question! I am thinking we will ask this of every author from now on! Your choice of donut sounds divine, and a few of our favorites are glazed and also cinnamon crumb. Cherry pie: fabulous. If our paths ever cross, perhaps you could bring a blackberry cream pie? And we’ll make pumpkin donuts! 🙂
Thanks so much, Rebecca, for answering these questions and visiting the blog! We loved your book and look forward to your future works!